When I arrived at the Fifth Avenue nest, Octavia was on it, and Pale Male was being harassed by an American Kestrel. He ended up perching on what the "regulars" call the Linda Building. I must have missed the exchanges for the day, as Pale Male soon went off to roost for the night. There isn't a lot of action when their are eggs to be kept warm!
I spent the weekend trying to figure out what was happening with our three pairs of hawks in Central Park.
- The Sheep Meadow pair continue to be seen in the SE corner of the park, but don't seem to have settled on a nesting location just yet.
- The pair that tried to nest on the Beresford last year, are bringing twigs to the Beresford and San Remo this year.
- Pale Male and Octavia are doing just fine. Pale Male gave Octavia a long break on Sunday afternoon.
- A Merlin was a nice extra bonus near the band shell.
When hawk watchers talk of an exchange, they're talking about the process where the male gives the female a break. When these start, it's usually safe to assume at least the first egg has been laid. Today, I was fortunate to see Pale Male give Octavia a break of about twenty minutes.
(The exchange was a little odd, in that Pale Male left the nest unattended for about four minutes. He may have been helping Octavia with a territorial dispute out of my view.)
Over the next few weeks, female hawks around New York City will begin spending nights sitting on their nests and will then lay eggs soon thereafter and start the brooding process. Pale Male's mate Octavia spent the night on the nest tonight. Spring must be right around the corner!
Octavia spent about twenty minutes on her nest this afternoon. Red-tailed Hawks courtship and nest building usually kicks in by Valentine's Day, so we should starts seeing activity all around the city.
The Sheep Meadow nest blew down this winter and a pair seems to be building a nest on The San Remo.
The day started with Octavia and Pale Male on the Carlyle Hotel. He left before I could get my camera out. But she stayed for about half an hour.
The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent with the Great Horned Owl. For the first time, I was able to follow her above 79th Street. She was perched in a tree in the Locust Grove and then she flew over the Great Lawn.
Central Park was full of people today. It seemed that everyone who stayed inside on Saturday was in the park on Sunday. Pale Male had just finished eating a bird in the Ramble when I arrived.
The Great Horned Owl, that no on saw for two weeks but was rediscovered a few days ago, was out in the open in the bright sunlight. She did her best to sleep but helicopters, a drone, a Gray Squirrel, a Tufted Titmouse, Pale Male and a Cooper's Hawk did there best to keep her awake.
As winter finally arrives and we get a light dusting of snow, Central Park has two Snow Geese on the reservoir. Large flocks of snow geese fly over the park during migration, but it's unusual for there to be a pair hanging out on the reservoir, especially in January. So, they were a nice treat on a gray day.
As I was leaving the park, I ran into Pale Male in the east Pinetum. He looked handsome with a dusting of snow.
After all of the owl, gull and bunting photos, I thought I should post a hawk entry. This afternoon, Pale Male has a favorite set of perches on a building at 73rd and Fifth. One the second floor from the top are six windows across. Each window has an ornamental railing, perfect for a hawk. Tonight Pale Male was perched on the second window from the left.
My birding centered around Turtle Pond in Central Park today. The Pond had a pair of Belted Kingfishers, one of whom seemed to be exhausted after getting wet while fishing. After the Kingfisher's it was Pale Male who was very photogenic, leading photographers and bird watchers on a journey from tree to tree until he caught a rat. It was a fun Sunday afternoon.
The sun finally came out and with it two hawk sightings. A migrant youngster at 79th and the East Drive and then Pale Male a block north.
This evening, Pale Male was on one of his favorite buildings at Fifth Avenue and 79th Street. He was there for about an hour and then flew to one of his favorite roosting trees in the east Pinetum.
After being difficult to find for two days, the rehabilitated fledgling was back by the north of the Met and the Ancient Playground today. She was there from 11 a.m. til sunset. She then roosted fairly high in a large tree half a block into the park.
I looked for the Fifth Avenue fledgling yesterday evening and this evening and came up empty. That's not too much of a surprise. Most fledglings wonder off this time of year and are difficult to track.
Its parents however were found. Octavia was on a building at 84th and Fifth before going to a building a few blocks south, and then Pale Male and Octavia flew to the park. We caught up with Pale Male in a favorite roosting tree near Cedar Hill.
When I arrived the rehabbed fledgling was on a railing on the path that follows the East Drive around 87th Street. It had a group of folks getting very close with smartphones, and then tried to catch a rodent. It came up empty and jumped back on the railing before flying across the street to the east side of Fifth Avenue.
I learned she had flown back and forth three times in the afternoon. She' not getting much height while flying. She's basically gliding and doing very little flapping. Let's hope she gains some strength and starts getting higher soon.
The young hawk who was returned to the park a week ago, is working her way up Museum Mile on Fifth Avenue. Having started at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, she was in front of the Neue Galerie New York yesterday and today she was in front of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. She's either a cultured hawk or she enjoys the rodents the food vendors attract!
I spotted her crossing the East Drive in the early afternoon and saw her land in a tree above the Fifth Avenue sidewalk that's adjacent to park. She stayed in this tree for over five hours, although she changed perches and direction a few times. It was a hot afternoon, and the tree had lots of shade and a nice breeze.
Pale Male and Octavia's youngster is still hanging out in the same location, and still frightening us all with low flights across Fifth Avenue. Today, she amazed me as she few down within a yard of me, caught and ate a small rodent and then flew across Fifth Avenue. This happened all so quickly, I couldn't change lenses and take any pictures.
The Fifth Avenue fledgling. who was returned to the park from rehab on Sunday, was found on Friday afternoon along Fifth Avenue just north of 85th Street. It drew a huge crowd as it perched near the sidewalk and eventually flew across 5th Avenue to the east side of the street.
It is hunting fine on its own, but I think all of us would love to see it move to higher perches and a more secluded, less trafficked section of the park.
I saw two hawks this evening, an young adult who's been hanging around the park for a few weeks (light eye color with red tail), and then the youngster of Pale Male and Octavia who was returned to the park on Sunday after being nursed back to health by the Horvaths.
The juvenile was on the north side of the Met and then flew to the Ancient Playground (Yes that's its name, as it is an Egyptian themed playground with a view of the Egyptian galleries at the Met.) It roosted there for the night.
Tonight was very much like last night with Pale Male hunting along the transverse. However, we had trouble keeping up with him and didn't get to see him eat his late night snack. He kept crossing back and forth from the north to the south sides of the transverse, which while only a short flight for Pale Male, meant a long trip for those watching him each time he crossed. We all gave up after it had gotten too dark to see him after one too many trips.
This time of year, it's not uncommon to see Pale Male hunting before going to roost up around the 85/86th Street Transverse. Tonight, he caught a rat near the south gate house of the reservoir and ate it in the east Pinetum. After his meal, he went to roost in a favorite spot in the Pinetum.
Pale Male was on one of his favorite trees this afternoon and into the early evening. The tree is on Cedar Hill in the high seventies on the east side of the park. Many hawk watchers call it the feeding tree because Pale Male uses it to leave food for his mates or fledglings, as well as a tree he himself eats in.
He's molting, so he looks a little rough around the edges this time of year.
For those joining us late, Pale Male and Octavia's youngster's got into trouble this year. One is at a rehabilitator's getting care, one was found dead on a park drive and one is still in the park.
The one still in the park has been visibly sick but not sick enough to be caught despite the best efforts of the Central Park Conservancy and the Urban Park Rangers, whose actions last week included the use of a Cherry Picker. (It would be good to keep this in mind when folks tell you the Conservancy or the Rangers are evil. They actually have great staff and go the extra mile to support the hawks in the park.)
So, those of us who where concerned about this fledgling, tried without success to find it on Saturday. Lucky, I was able to find it on Sunday afternoon, southeast of Turtle Pond. Much to everyone's surprise it looked normal, without any of the droopy eyes or lethargy we saw on Friday. Hopefully it is recovering, but only time will tell. Unfortunately, some birds appear to recover, but relapse once they resume hunting and eating. Let's hope for the best.
Pale Male and Octavia's children all became sick over the last ten days, with one being captured and send to the Horvaths, one being found dead on one of the park drives, and one looking sick but not sick enough to be captured.
The photographs below are of the fledgling who is sick and thus far has avoided capture, who sat all afternoon in a tree to the west of the Maintenance Shed around 79th Street in Central Park.
The three fledglings were having a great time flying from tree to tree and calling for food whenever they say their father fly by at Fifth Avenue. It was a delight to watch them all, at times from the same viewing location.
At Fifth Avenue, we usually see three migrations after fledging. First its an exploration of nearby buildings, then the area south of the playground at 77th Street, and then Cedar Hill. We're in the second phase now with the fledglings beginning to play on the ground and explore the trees. It's a fun time to watch them.
When I arrived at the Fifth Avenue nest, four hawks were in view. Two fledglings on roofs of buildings two blocks south of the nest, Pale Male two floors below on a railing, and an eyass on the nest (despite reports of a fledge on Tuesday.)
One of the fledglings explored various perches on a water tank. One of the things a young hawk needs to practice is turning around on a branch or in this case a rod. It was charming to watch the young hawk learn.
Just before a brief rain shower, Octavia made her way to the nest and plucked what may have been a pigeon carcass before leaving the remaining eyass alone on the nest.
Once eyasses fledge it's a lot more work to go hawk watching. You have to find them. Or in reality, let them and the birds around them show you were they are.
Tonight, the first was found on a building on Fifth Avenue yelling for attention before going off to a tree. It seemed to have the hang of things. It got to watch its father catch a pigeon and pluck it's feathers below it.
The second fledgling was found on a building just south of the nest on a windows ledge. It looked a little bewildered, but its mother kept a eye on the youngster. Her arrival clued us to the location of this second fledgling.
And our third eyass is still on the nest.
Sometime around 4 p.m., while no one was looking one of the Fifth Avenue eyasses fledged to a building two blocks north. I arrived around 5 and got to see the first fledgling explore a terrace. I had to rush off to get ready for a dinner with friends, only to receive a text that a second fledge had occurred around 6:45. Let the fun begin!
The Fifth Avenue eyasses are close to fledging. The hawk bench is enjoying watching them get ready for their next stage in life. It was a hot evening, so there was limited flapping and jumping but we did get to see Octavia and Pale Male together on the same perch for an extended period.
Just like my last visit, Octavia was providing shade for the eyasses most of the time. However there was a brief feeding and we did get to see Pale Male deal with a pesky Northern Mockingbird on the Carlyle Hotel. The eyasses wings are now a solid color, while just a few days ago they were a mix of new feathers and downy fuzz.
This afternoon and evening in Central Park was warm and sunny. Octavia spent much of the time acting as a parasol for her eyasses. They would come out now and then, but then it was back into the shade provided by mom.
On the way home I spent half hour at Pale Male's nest. Pale Male brought some food and Octavia fed the eyasses.
On Friday, I spend a some time looking at the Fifth Avenue nest. The eyasses are old enough that the parents are comfortable leaving them alone for long periods. Tonight, it was over an hour.
Nests can be difficult to watch. Eyasses can be sleeping or too young to see, but today at the model boat pond the bench had lots of afternoon action. Active youngsters, still fluffy but large enough to see doing all kinds of things on the nest. If you haven't seen them yet, and are nearby, grab you binoculars and go!
The mother brought in some leaves today. Perfect for helping with a messy nest.
The opening shots of Pale Male and Octavia have them preched on the Carlyle Hotel's roof at 76th and Madison.
The new nest at the Beresford Apartments and the relocated nest at St. John the Divine both seem to have failed this year. We'll see if either pair tries to have a second clutch.
On the other hand, hawks have been seen with nesting material on The San Remo and a fire escape at 100th and Third Avenue. So, we could be in for some late surprises this year.
The Fifth Avenue nest now has three very visible eyasses. One's a bit of a bully and they can now move around the nest with ease.
Octavia must have some hungry youngsters on her hands. Every time I visit the nest, I get to see her feeding her three eyasses.
(There was a hatchling being fed on Sunday, April 26th. So, please be aware that the dates and ages of the eyasses being listed on the Palemale.com site for 2015 are incorrect.)
Although most of the 5th Avenue bench thought we had three eyasses, today was the first time I could see for sure. The video is a nice long feeding of all three youngsters. Enjoy the little ones. They'll be grown up before you know it!
(The second video is the same as the first, except is cropped differently. It will make it easier to see the eyasses on smartphones and other small screens.)
The Fifth Avenue eyasses are now visible during feedings. Pale Male was on the nest when I arrived, who was quickly replaced by Octavia, who fed the eyasses.
At this point, I can only see two little heads at any one time. However, based on feeding patterns, there is a good chance we have three eyasses in the nest. We should be able to figure it out how many for sure by this weekend.
I finally got to see a young eyass this season. It was at Fifth Avenue. The glimpses were quick, but I did get to see a young hawk. In the next few weeks this should easily become two dozen. The video has the best view.
I was hoping to see a little eyass head on Wednesday evening at Fifth Avenue, but they were still to small to see. I tried all of the angles I know of for a chance at a view without success!
Pale Male brought a squirrel to the nest during one of Octavia's feedings. Unlike Sunday, were she fed for only a brief period, she had lots of work to do now.
When I was at the nest yesterday, Octavia seems to be high in the nest. This afternoon, Pale Male spent lots of time on the nest or nearby. Then this evening around 6:30 p.m., the hawk bench saw a feeding. It was brief, which would be normal for a newly hatched eyass, but it was clearly a feeding with Octavia ripping up meat, turning her head and gently giving the meat to the eyass. Together all of this means we had a hatch within the last day!
Nice to have the Fifth Avenue nest back on a regular schedule! Great News!
We should be able to see the eyasses next weekend. The feeding starts at about 8:00 on the video.
I thought I'd spend some time where it all began, Pale Male's nest on Fifth Avenue this afternoon. It was uneventful with Pale Male giving Octavia a break just before he went off to roost.
Octavia is an impatient hawk. She leaves the nest as soon as she sees Pale Male nearby. She doesn't wait for him land on the nest like other females in the city due. It's kind of funny, as though she's saying "I've been waiting, where have you been?"
The Fifth Avenue nest also has a brooding female. Tonight, when Pale Male flew by, she was off the nest before he landed by about ten seconds. I guess she really wanted a break! She wasn't gone long, maybe ten or fifteen minutes.
He asks an excellent question. Could Pale Male actually be Pale Male II, or even the Pale Male III? It certainly is a question worth asking, and one that might have an unpopular answer.
Manhattan hawk watchers have seen hawks replace mates in under 24 hours. There were fast replacements of partners at both the St. John the Divine and Washington Square Park nests in recent years. So, a quick switch of hawks is certainly possible.
Most New York City nests, which are usually characterized as long-term monogamous triumphs, have actually had a good number of mate changes due to the mortality of partners. So, Corey's question is a good one. Could a look alike have replaced the original Pale Male? Maybe during the off-season, when a missing hawk would have gone unnoticed?
Corey brings up Pale Male’s unusually long lifespan, the ratio of his mates to himself (8:1), to cast doubt, then questions if Pale Male, who hasn’t been banded, really has enough unique plumage markers to determine if he’s the same bird that appeared in Central Park in 1991?
Corey also implied something I’ve always been concerned about, which is “Can those who believe in the myth of Pale Male also be good observers of him?”
So, could Corey be right? Maybe.
First let’s look at Pale Male’s plumage. Unfortunately, Corey quotes from Marie Winn’s book to find a description of how Pale Male looked in the “old days”. Marie loves to spin a good story, sometimes at the sake of accuracy. So I think it would be best not to use her anthropomorphically entitled Red-tails in Love, as scientific source material. If you want to compare the plumage of Pale Male, year over year, one can use the footage of Pale Male from Frederic Lilien’s 2004 Nature episode and compare it to photographs and footage from today. I believe the DVD is on Netflix! (But even doing this leave a huge gap for the first decade of Pale Male's life.)
(In the early nineties, Pale Male arrived and was lighter than the hawks in the guidebooks, so he was dubbed Pale Male by Marie Winn. However, Pale Male’s light color is not that unusual for a mid-Atlantic hawk. His light coloring is fairly common. It is part of the myth of Pale Male that his coloring is rare.)
Both from this older era and today, the plumage is very consistent to my eyes. Light scalloped feathers (with a oak leaf like patterns) on his lower breast and light head color, which is almost golden in the right light, are consistent in both periods. But even day-to-day, Pale Male has lots of different looks depending on the temperature or the lighting. He doesn’t have any truly unique field marks.
Secondly, the passing of so many mates is hard to explain, but how all of these hawks got into trouble isn’t just rat poison. Pale Male could just have some great luck. But other issues come into play too. New York City seems to have greater death by rodenticides in females, especially before nesting. There have been lots of necropsies where females bleed out via their ovaries. Could males have it easier in NYC?
Thirdly, we have Pale Male’s long life span. Pale Male should be living a long life, in one of the richest zip codes in America. He lives in a very safe area, with a great food supply.
So, is Corey right? He builds a good case, but it isn’t solid. Maybe enough evidence to win a civil trail, but certainly not enough to win a criminal case.
But I do know one thing, if this discussion upsets you, then you’re not someone who should be sitting on the jury. Maybe you’re too attached to the myth of Pale Male to judge fairly.
Update: Since I first posted this, I've run into some of the long term Pale Male followers in Central Park. Those that have followed him since 1992 when he arrived and 1993 when the nest was built on 5th Avenue. Although they don't have pictures online, they do have slides and prints that show what Pale Male looked like in the early days. Having talked to these unbiased observers of Pale Male, I now believe that we are viewing the same individual, not two. It would be great if one of them could collect some photos and put them online to put this question to rest.
On Saturday afternoon, two hawks spent at least an hour circling around Central Park West north of 80th Street. Then one landed on the roof of the Beresford Apartments' SE Tower, while the other landed on the SW Tower. It wasn't clear if it was Octavia and Pale Male or another pair of hawks. They certainly were not in the standard perches.
However, on Sunday afternoon, it was clear Pale Male was in the oval window of the SE Tower, and Octavia was perched just below the oval window of the NE Tower.
Had I just misidentified the hawks on Saturday, or was Pale Male protecting the building after interlopers landed on the building the day before?
I got a very, very brief look at Octavia at the base of Cedar Hill on Sunday. I've been having trouble figuring out her habits, so it was nice to find her.
On Labor Day, Octavia, Pale Male's current mate was perched on the north side of 2 East 70th Street. The location gave her a good view up Fifth Avenue.
I always thought 72nd Street was the "line in the sand" between the 5th Avenue and the Sheep Meadow pair, but the borders are turning out to be more complicated. Octavia is regularly south of 72nd Street, and the Sheep Meadow fledglings regularly go north of 72nd Street on either side of Bethesda Fountain.
It's ironic, given that I'm Red/Green Colorblind, that my two good birds of the day on Saturday were a Red-tailed Hawk and Green Heron.
The Red-tailed Hawk was the same bird I saw Friday. It was again perched on a window railing of 2 East 70th Street.
The Green Heron was in a shallow area of the The Pond north of Gapstow bridge. These mudflat areas are import to wading birds, but they're constantly being removed by the Central Park Conservancy. The original landscaping of the park had water bodies with clean sculpted edges, which removed the transitional areas of marsh and mud needed by many birds. Luckily, natural erosion does a great job of bringing these mudflats back!
At about 6:56 on the video is a great shot of the Green Heron "licking its lips".
I've been corrected by a number of fellow hawk watchers, who identified this hawk as Pale Male's mate, Octavia. Wow! I didn't expect her this far south.
Given the mess at the bottom of the window frame, this is a popular spot!